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50% of Execs Think mHealth will be Key to Patient Engagement

By Jennifer Bresnick

Half of executive leaders believe that patient engagement will rely heavily on mobile health technologies within the next five years, according to a poll conducted by The Economist.  mHealth technologies will be key to providing patients with their personal health information, supplementing population health management programs, and reducing strain on the overextended healthcare delivery system, the survey found.

The poll of 144 healthcare executives revealed optimism about the role of mobile technologies in patient engagement, with 63% of respondents believing that greater access to health information will allow patients to make better decisions and improve their outcomes.  More than a third believe that smartphones, tablets, and home monitoring technology will help to cut costs and relieve the burden on providers, while 79% believe that these devices and apps are providing important educational information to the public.

Yet few organizations have worked out how to make money from mHealth, the report found.  Nearly 20% of US participants believe that mobile technology has no potential to bring revenue to a healthcare provider.  Under the current fee-for-service model, which still provides the majority of revenue for most healthcare organizations, keeping patients healthy and out of the hospital is simply bad business.  While this may change as value-based reimbursement ramps up, there are other significant barriers to mHealth adoption within the industry.

More than 40% of executives believe that healthcare’s resistance to change will be the top obstacle for mobile health technologies, while 37% believe that provider organizations simply don’t have the technical infrastructure to deal with a new influx of patient information and new patient engagement techniques.  Unreliable internet and cell phone service, transition costs, and the complexity of ongoing upgrades were among the top technical challenges highlighted by the poll.  Privacy and security also figure highly on the risk list, while 19% blame regulatory hurdles for slow adoption of mobile health strategies.

Respondents also fretted over the possibility that patients would take too much responsibility into their own hands, misinterpreting their data and making poor decisions because of it.  Ten percent worried that the increase in social media chatter would be harmful to professional reputations, while half worried about privacy and security risks inherent in all data exchange and sharing transactions.

mhealth

At the moment, mHealth devices and wearable technologies are mostly centered around education, according to 79% of respondents.  Just over a third believe they have the potential to improve communications between providers and patient, while around 17% believe that mHealth can help patients monitor their own health, receive social support from their peers, and share their new knowledge with others.

Five years from now, however, the landscape shifts towards patient engagement and cost reduction.  Half of participants believe that mHealth infrastructure will mature past its revenue obstacles to cut costs and boost patient contact with the healthcare continuum in a meaningful way.  Patients newly empowered by mobile technologies will spend less time in their physician offices or hospitals, become an active player in a streamlined and efficient healthcare delivery system, and be increasingly instrumental in the quest for better outcomes and chronic disease management.

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